Yolanda Ridge, the lovely and talented author of Trouble in the Trees and Road Block, has tagged me in the My Writing Process Blog Tour. It’s only natural she picked on me, as I’m pretty sure we are twins separated at birth. We’re both Canadians who have applied our graduate degrees in science to careers as children’s writers, and on the day we finally meet outside of the internet, it is going to be epic. Go make her virtual acquaintance – she’s great!
Here’s how My Writing Process Blog Tour works: once tagged, you answer four questions about the writing process and then tag three other authors. The rules don’t specify whether the tag should be of the ear or radio collar variety, but I’ve provided web links so the online stalking (of the fangirl variety only, of course) can begin.
And now, the questions…
What am I working on?
At the moment, I’m working on two books about forensics. Fuzzy Forensics: DNA Fingerprinting Gets Wild is in layout right now, which means that I look at stuff the illustrator (Nicole Wong) and designer (Michael Penman) have done and wave my royal stamp of approval (it’s sparkly and uses chocolate ink). Sometime I make suggestions, but mostly those two are brilliant and get by without my help.
The second forensic book is for an educational publisher, and I’m alternating between writing and editing the first chapter and doing research to complete the outline for the rest of the book. This involves reading way too many descriptions about gruesome murders and trying to figure out how mature is too mature for a book aimed at teenagers.
I’m also writing reports for my day job, but I’m not sure those count. 🙂
How does my work differ from others of its genre?
There are a lot of brilliant science books out there for kids, but I think one thing that makes my work different is my background as a scientist. I think it gives me a slightly different perspective than that of authors who love science, but never studied it at the level I have. Because I work part time at a university, I also have access to a lot of research materials that other writers might not be able to find or afford (most professional journals charge pricey subscription and licensing fees). My own research experiences, and those of my scientist friends, also help me identify little-known, but utterly awesome, stories to share with kids.
Why do I write what I do?
I started out writing fiction, but fiction is highly competitive and I wasn’t making much headway with publishers.
Then, in 2010, it occurred to me that by switching to nonfiction, I could leverage my academic credentials and break into the biz. That sounds mercenary of me, but I quickly realized that nonfiction is a lot more fun to write than most people think it is, and I absolutely love the research process (so much so that I often have to remind myself to stop chasing facts and start writing already!)
In terms of subject matter, I choose projects that I’m fascinated by or subjects I want to learn more about. And I dream about the day someone will come up to me and tell me that my books are the reason they love science.
How does my writing process work?
I love the word “process” – it sounds so organized!
I usually start with exploratory research. I get my hands on some good books about my topic and troll through them with a wide net, looking for anything that sparks my “oh wow” response. This continues until the book starts to take shape in my head – until I’ve figured out roughly what I want to cover and what order it goes in. Then I write a draft of the whole book. This reveals every hole in my research, from the tiny and specific to the huge and the gaping.
My second round of research is designed to plug those gaps – now I’m looking for answers to specific questions. I start using journal articles and reputable websites and contacting experts until I’m satisfied (or my deadline starts to loom). I go back to my draft, add the new material, and polish the whole thing until it shines. This takes anywhere from three to six rounds of revision.
At last I submit, reward myself with chocolate, and wait for the inevitable request for revision, at which point the cycle starts again!
That’s all for me! But check out these awesome writers, who will be posting their own responses in the next week or so.
Ishta Mercurio, critique partner extraordinaire. Not only is she a genius with a red pen, she’s celebrating her soon-to-be released first children’s science book, Bite Into Bloodsuckers! In addition to checking out her blog, spend some time on her highly entertaining YouTube channel, Ishta Vlogs.
Ben Jones, poet and novelist. Ben’s first children’s picture book, The Curious Misadventures of the Sleeping Ant, is coming this November.
Eva Blascovic, professional editor and author of the coming-of-age novel Beyond the Precipice.
While you’re busy blog hopping, don’t forget to check out the Children’s Book Week Giveaway Tour – tons of great prizes to win!